A looping current

Image of the Month - April 2003

Sea Surface height in the Gulf of Mexico. A warm eddy ("hill") is forming, breaking off the main current anf going deeper in the Gulf. See the animation (Animated Gif, 1.05 Mb) (Credits Cnes/CLS)


The Loop Current, in the Gulf of Mexico, is something of an original. This warm current enters the Gulf by the strait between the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba, and makes a loop that goes more or less deep. Sometimes, this loop breaks, and forms a lone eddy (or ring). This could seem just a curiosity. However, it can have real impact, especially on hurricane intensification (see April 2001 Image of the Month: Tracking hurricanes), and on navigation. Moreover, the Gulf of Mexico is an oil exploitation area, that oceanic perturbations like these eddies can seriously disorganize, or even make hazardous.

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